Paul Shortt and Chris Gabel perform at Atomic Vaudeville's Halloween cabaret.

Paul Shortt and Chris Gabel perform at Atomic Vaudeville's Halloween cabaret.

Vaudeville enters the Canary Club

Atomic Vaudeville hosts speakeasy in support of their newest work, a collaboration with singer-songwriter Anne Schaefer

Wine bottles and chairs have been hurtled at the stage. The director was once pummelled with firm tomatoes. And then there are those nights when someone in the audience thinks they’re the stars of the show and continually yell out at the performers. An Atomic Vaudeville cabaret is definitely not a night at the Belfry, but the company has proven prowess with that, too.

“There’s certainly no fourth wall,” said Atomic Vaudeville’s artistic producer Britt Small of their seasonal cabarets at the Victoria Event Centre. “The audience is the last piece of the performance. The audience is complicit in the performance, and the audience can not only turn on you in a second, but they can take over.”

For 10 years Small, along with AV co-founder and director Jacob Richmond – who survived the ill-conceived tomato assault during his never-ending rendition of the Star Spangled Banner – have been redefining a night of theatre for Victoria audiences. Their shows have taught twisted after school special-style lessons, hosted by the likes of Ronald McDonald, Death, Sid Vicious and Osama Bin Laden and have featured the work of some 300 artists from the theatre, sketch and improv communities. Small and Richmond’s initial hope for the company? To create work for themselves in Victoria. Like any new undertaking, its longevity wasn’t expected.

“When the shows started to take off and the audience started to dig the show, that’s what made us keep doing it, because all of a sudden it didn’t feel like it was our show anymore, it was our community’s show and we had a responsibility to keep doing it,” Small said. “In our community, which is relatively small, it feels like a great gathering place. People from all different companies come and work with each other. Sometimes people meet at our shows and decide they want to do a project together. It’s kind of a great lab, where creative energies meet and spin off into other things.”

Their latest undertaking, an original production inspired by the music of singer-songwriter Anne Schaefer and her latest release, The Waiting Room, is following a similar path to Ride the Cyclone, an award-winning musical which toured the country earlier this year.

“The idea that’s explored is that of the lonely crowd,” Small said. “A waiting room being a place with people in transition, waiting to be somewhere else. It can be a place where there are a lot of people, but those people are rarely a community. Especially being on the Island, it does have such a community feel because of the size and relative isolation – the idea of the lonely crowd was interesting to us.”

To get audiences acquainted with the project – and to generate some funds for development with a playwright, Atomic Vaudeville is hosting a roaring ‘20s-themed speakeasy Nov. 28, from 7 to 11pm. The evening features performances by Schaefer, along with a line up of company regulars. Dubbed the Canary Club Speakeasy, Rifflandia Headquarters (1501 Douglas) will go Gatsby-era glam for an evening of cocktails, catering, and a chance to win uniquely Atomic Vaudeville prizes, such as dinner with Small and Richmond or singing telegrams from Hank and Lily.

Tickets, $50, are available at ticketrocket.org and include a year-long membership to the Atomic Vaudeville Society.

“The show has taught me a lot about theatre,” Small said. “It’s been interesting training ground for our company and thinking about what theatre is. A lot of people said it’s not real theatre. What do you mean? It’s the most real theatre in a way. It’s completely live and completely engages its audience. … For me now, when something unexpected happens on stage, it’s a gift because then you can riff off of it and the audience loves it because they know it’s happening in the moment and it’s very spontaneous.”

Just Posted

Victoria-born, 16-time Grammy winning musician David Foster penned a letter to the Greater Victoria School District May 7 urging them not to cut music programs. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
David Foster joins fight to save music in Greater Victoria School District

‘Music is the great equalizer’ Foster wrote in a letter to the district

‘Nindanikoobijiganag: We are Star People’ by Mississauga Nishnaabe Lucbanin artist Estrella Whetung. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Victoria beadwork exhibit speaks to evolving, enduring nature of Indigenous art

On Beaded Ground features work from West Coast artists and a Cedar Hill Middle School group

Former Victoria HarbourCat and Chicago White Sox player Andrew Vaughn. (Photo courtesy of Chicago White Sox)
Former Victoria HarbourCat hits first MLB home run, adds another two days later

Andrew Vaughn is the first HarbourCat alumni to hit a homer in the majors

A seniors housing complex proposed for Cedar Hill Road in Saanich was supported by council after a public hearing on May 12. (Rendering by Jenson Group Architects)
New 85-unit seniors housing development gets green light from Saanich council

Four-storey rental complex would be located on Cedar Hill Road

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Queen Elizabeth II and Clive Holland, deputy commonwealth president of the Royal Life Saving Society, top left, virtually present Dr. Steve Beerman, top right, with the King Edward VII Cup for his drowning-prevention work. Tanner Gorille and Sarah Downs were honoured with Russell Medals for their life-saving resuscitation. (Buckingham Palace photo)
Queen presents Vancouver Island doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup at virtual ceremony

Former UFV Cascades wrestling coach Arjan Singh Bhullar is now the ONE heavyweight champion after defeating Brandon Vera via TKO in round two on Saturday in Singapore. (ONE Championship)
Former UFV wrestling coach wins MMA championship

Arjan Singh Bhullar captures ONE heavyweight title, first Indian origin fighter to achieve honour

Astra Zeneca vaccine waits for injection in a Feb. 3, 2021 file photo. A Langley man has become the second B.C. resident to suffer a blood clot following an injection. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
B.C. man required emergency surgery after AstraZeneca vaccination

Shaun Mulldoon suffered ‘massive blood clot’ after jab

Chilliwack’s Kile Brown, performing as drag queen Hailey Adler, dances and lip syncs in front of hundreds of people during the inaugural Chilliwack Pride Barbecue at the Neighbourhood Learning Centre on Aug. 24, 2019. Monday, May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of May 16 to 22

International Day Against Homophobia, Talk Like Yoda Day, Sea Monkey Day all coming up this week

Most Read